May 28, 2019

Tomatoes on Your High-rise Roof: New Chicago Apartments Adding More Green Space Than Ever

David Michaels, an Emme Chicago resident, poses for a portrait at one of the green areas offered by the building. Michaels said all the greenery in the building reminds him of life in Europe. (Pinar Istek / for the Chicago Tribune)

Gerding Edlen is deeply committed to developing, retrofitting and managing highly sustainable buildings that not only positively impact the planet, but also impact residents’ lives. In a recent feature story, the Chicago Tribune examines renter demand for green space in urban environments, and how Gerding Edlen’s Fund III property, EMME Chicago, is delivering on this need.

In the development of EMME Chicago, which is located in the heart of downtown Chicago, it was of high importance to create a strong connection to the natural environment.

“This connection to a natural environment and how it makes people feel is becoming a really important feature for tenants,” said Kelly Saito, managing partner at Gerding Edlen. “Chicago is a town known for its parks, but it’s also a city that is very, very dense and very, very large. So when we’re making these buildings where people are going to live and work, being able to create a connection to not just the outdoors, but to the natural environment — even if it’s in a small way — is really, really important.”

David Michaels, a resident of EMME, who recently moved to Chicago from Europe, was uneasy about finding a place to live that met the same environmental standards he experienced during his 2 ½-year stint living in Europe. That is until he and his wife found EMME.

“This building reminded me of the comforts you have in a country that is so focused on the environment, and green living. I was really afraid that I wouldn’t have that here, but when I went through this building, it reassured me that there are such places in the U.S.,” said the 38-year-old director of production. “We were just blown away by the outdoor garden, the thoughtfulness of the design of the whole building.”

Photo: Nate Moser / Omni Ecosystems

EMME Chicago, which opened in 2017, consists of 199 apartment units and features 8,000 square feet of urban agriculture space. The green roofs are maintained by a local organization, The Roof Crop, which grows everything from tomatoes to garlic on rooftops throughout the city, selling the harvests to local restaurants and bars. As part of Gerding Edlen’s partnership with The Roof Crop, residents of EMME Chicago receive monthly care packages, including items such as soaps, bath salts, mixed greens and herbs.

The Roof Crop prepares monthly care packages for Emme residents. (Tracy Boychuk/Handout)

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